The 43-year-old, who has been suspended from his duties as an MP pending the court decision, is resigning so that the party can appoint a member to lead the opposition in parliament.

Pita Limjaroenrat, who led his Progressive Party to victory in Thailand’s elections in May but was blocked from taking power by conservative lawmakers, has announced he is stepping down as its leader.

The 43-year-old leader of the Move Forward Party (MFP) is currently suspended from his mandate as an MP pending a court ruling on whether he violated electoral law. This prohibits him from serving as leader of the opposition in parliament, since the current rules require the person holding this position to be a deputy.

Pita wrote on social media Friday that he decided to resign because he needed to comply with the court’s order so the party could appoint a new member to take on what he described as a “very important role.”

“The Leader of the Opposition is like the bow of a ship, guiding the performance of the opposition in Parliament, implementing checks in government and pushing for change agendas that are missing from government policy.”

Pita said the party will select its new leaders on September 23. He also said he would remain closely involved “regardless of his role.”

Political analyst Thitinan Pongsudhirak said Pita’s decision after his spectacular emergence as leader showed the MFP was the “real deal”.

“It’s not about personalities, but about political reforms and the modernization of Thailand,” he told AFP.

The resignation, he said, allowed the youth-led reformist party to move on and pursue its agenda as an effective opposition.

Move Forward Party supporters hold a portrait of party leader Pita Limjaroenrat during a protest in Bangkok, Thailand [File: Sakchai Lalit/AP]

In July, when Pita sought Parliament’s support to be appointed prime minister, the Constitutional Court suspended him from holding his seat in the House of Representatives pending a decision on whether he had broken the law by running for office while he was The company owned shares in a now-defunct media company, an allegation he has denied.

Under the Thai constitution, MPs are banned from owning media shares.

The violation is punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine of up to 60,000 baht (US$1,675). His party could be fined up to 100,000 baht (US$2,793).

The Constitutional Court has not yet set a decision date for Pita’s case. In late August, he was granted a 30-day extension to prepare his defense.

The MFP won the most votes in the May 14 election, but Thailand’s military-drafted constitution allows an unelected 250-member Senate to take part in voting on the appointment of the prime minister. Conservative members of the Senate have twice thwarted the MFP’s attempts to form a government because of its promise to overhaul a law that shields the Thai monarchy from criticism.

The Pheu Thai Party came second in the polls but took control of forming a government after conservative members of the unelected upper house blocked attempts by the youth-led progressive MFP to secure the top job for its candidate. Conservative lawmakers rejected the MFP because it promised to overhaul a law that shields the Thai monarchy from criticism.

The Pheu Thai Party was then able to form a coalition acceptable to senators after joining military-backed parties that included members linked to a 2014 coup that overthrew a previous Pheu Thai government had dropped off. One of its candidates, real estate tycoon Srettha Thavisin, was elected prime minister at the end of August.

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